The New York Civil Liberties Union has teamed up with amateur photographer Antonio Musumeci in a lawsuit that challenges a federal ban on photography. Musumeci, a software programmer, filmed the arrest of a protester outside of the Manhattan Federal Court last year, and then was himself arrested.
Musumeci was standing in a public plaza when he was arrested, but he says a Federal Protective Service inspector told him that it was illegal to take photos. The inspector then made Musumeci sit on a sidewalk for 20 minutes while his camera and memory card were confiscated. He was then ticketed for “violating the regulation barring photography.” Though his ticket was later dismissed in court, his memory card has not been recovered.
The man returned to take footage at another protest, during which he deliberately stood on the public sidewalk, but says he was threatened with arrest once again.
Now the NYCLU has picked up Musumeci’s case to challenge the ban on photography near federal property by suing the Federal Protective Services, FPS Inspector Clifford Barnes, and the Department of Homeland Security.
Executive director of the NYCLU wrote in a statement:
“In our society, people have a clear right to use cameras in public places without being hassled and arrested by federal agents or police… We understand the need for heightened security around federal buildings, but the government cannot arrest people for taking pictures in a public plaza.”
New York law enforcement has a track record of misdealings with photographers after a 2009 arrest of an off-duty metro employee.
But if the UK Parliament’s recent reversal of the controversial Section 44 is any indication, the NYCLU’s lawsuit may stand a chance in US court.